Man Kei Ng, 25 January 2014

How can the Arts change the System?

The flow of the discussion went like this:

Why is the Arts not on the street? It could be a means to reimagine the society

Arts has 2 notion: a) everyone can do; b) good artists can do. But new forms like

flashmob may not require the professionally trained artists, but it can effectively disrupt

the usual space, in a good way

The change that we are looking for are in 2 ways:

a) personal micro-scale => individuals being inspired to envisage what change should


b) system-wise macro-scale => a billion small things to impact fundamental changes

These 2 will work symbiotically because a change in thought pattern will change the


The method to make the work can somehow imply the influence of the work

e.g. Emily Davidson who painted women portraits in order to raise their salary

So she as an artist, her work has always been purposefully political/social, i.e. a

gesture of life style politics

A metaphor for donating to the arts/getting corporate support: Coffee shop giving

chance for customers to donate for homeless people to have a coffee

Is this ethical? Why are we donating on top of our expenses, while the coffee shop

looked like they made the whole charity action? And how much more profit they have

made by attracting people to come? And people who donated - are they consuming

the idea of donating?

Why don't we think about how to get rid of homelessness for all people? This

re-distribution of resources in the system should be better argued indeed! Afterall the

care for people's housing, or rights to accessing the arts, are supposedly paid for

when we pay taxes!

Currently we have no financial democracy and media control, once we agreed to be in

the “society” of the countries

Social media on the internet could be too dilute as anyone could post whatever for

however much they want. Alternative narratives exist, e.g. Global voices, which is a

grassroot participation platform where people who are in the field directly report what

is happening.

Comedy and game theory could come in place - how to play around the environments.


We're sick of power bases, which made local/community theatre invisible

ACE's current direction “Great Art for Everyone”. What is “Great”? What is


For example NPOs are doing great art (some are even great in practice, e.g. Theatre

Unlimited who gives the same pay for everyone). But for those outside the NPO pool,

are they not great art?

If we bypass ACE, could a lot more great idea be actualised? E.g. In the Occupy

movement (which may not be the most successful macroscopically), a community took

over an empty library and put so many books in it and they ran it really well, probably

in the way that they want. Could we take reference from that?

In France, if artists worked enough number of months, they would be paid at their

normal rate even they do not work for the rest of the year, which is a support for them

to create and get personal improvement like taking workshops/trainings.

This is because they regard the Arts and creativity, like health and justice, as part of

being human being. What does the Arts mean to other countries?

And what are the functions of the Arts?

- beauty

- joy

- telling stories

- and?

So if we think about actions - what we should start doing?

- developing the communication network, like this group and D&D

- changing mentality: we should stop fighting against each other for the limited funding

decided by someone else

- putting effort in influencing the indifferent/“self-portrayed as powerless” people

- changing ourselves before the system

- forming a core group to make a strong document of arguments

A good read is “Power of Just Doing Stuff” which demonstrate how transition culture,

which could be despair and optimistic, works:

Some good stuff: - 4, 5 October where participants go out and

ask everyone what they want to see in arts and science - could be a model for

grassroot participation in finding what we need.

And I strongly recommended this: - the regular

meetings of significant cultural workers and people from other sectors to think about

the appropriate actions. We may not all agree that change can happen just from these

forums, but it would be a good network to get in touch with to meet the like-minded.


change, donation, politics, funding, system, NPO, Network, Funding, democracy,

society, social, network, whatnext